Is Maryland Making the Grade?
Summer heat gets people thinking about cool water. But questions follow: Are our creeks, rivers and Bay safe for swimming? How's our progress in cleaning them up?
CBF's and Choose Clean Water Coalition's analysis of the latest milestone goals and progress toward restoring the Bay in each state across the watershed.
Our water is not safe enough. The Maryland Department of Environment continues to caution residents not to swim in any "natural water"of the state (meaning all fresh water streams and lakes as well as all tidal creeks, rivers, and the Bay) for a full 48 hours after a heavy storm. That's because rain washes pollution off the land into nearby water. Swimmers can get stomach aches from ingesting unsafe bacteria often found in our swimming areas after storms.
But the water is getting cleaner, and if all goes according to plan our grandkids should be able to swim safely. In 2010, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia vowed to meet critical goals to clean up our water. A bipartisan federal/state partnership known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established. The six states and the District of Columbia within the Chesapeake Bay watershed committed to accelerate efforts to make all water safe for swimming and fishing. They also committed to report on their progress every two years in "milestone" reports.
CBF has been working to make sure those commitments are met. Working with the Choose Clean Water Coalition, we evaluate the states' and the District's milestone reports to verify the jurisdictions are making progress toward clean, healthy water.
Our June assessment found Maryland met its pollution-reduction goals for 2013, but the state set at least one of its goals too low, and will need to step up the pace to achieve long-term goals. The assessment also raised concerns about underlying data of the Maryland milestone report. Under the Blueprint agreed to by all jurisdictions, all pollution-reduction measures must be in place by 2025, and 60 percent must be in place by 2017.
We are urging Maryland to take several concrete steps, including:
- Plant 4,000 additional acres of trees by the 2017 interim Blueprint deadline;
- Implement a Phosphorus Management Tool to help farmers ensure there is not too much phosphorus inadvertently polluting local waters and the Bay through the application of manure;
- Implement regulations so that pollution coming from new housing and commercial development doesn't negate other efforts, and;
- Issue improved permits to ensure that our larger cities and more populated suburbs are held accountable for reducing polluted runoff.
Gov. O'Malley and Maryland have been leaders in reducing water pollution. We applaud that effort. But we expect significant resistance from some candidates in the upcoming November elections for both governor and legislative seats. Those elections and the 2015 legislative session will be critical to picking up the pace of progress in Maryland
We will circulate to all candidates prior to November a list of five actions that will ensure Maryland meets its clean water goals. We will share those actions with you, too, and urge you to speak to the candidates of your choice about the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. We also ask for your support during the coming legislative sessions to make sure Maryland ramps up efforts to bring safe, swimmable waters to all Marylanders. Your remarkable support over the years is the reason we can safely predict safer swimming in summers ahead.
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation